Expected milieu, original solutions

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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AUGUST QUESTION: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

MY ANSWER: In a contest between familiarity and originality I, as a writer, would always opt for originality. But of course, this statement is not absolute. If I’m working on a science fiction story, for example, I know I have to comply with the genre expectations: space travel, wormholes, aliens, or at least some super technology that doesn’t exist here and now. Not yet anyway. Even of the technology is very low key, like a hairdressing robot, it has to be there.

If I don’t do that, my readers wouldn’t recognize the genre and would drift away. Even more: if the story is included in a sci-fi magazine or anthology, the sci-fi element should appear on the first page, or better still, in the first paragraph. That’s what the readers want, and that’s what I strive to give them.

But in all my stories, the sci-fi ambience is only skin-deep – a framework, no more. All my sci-fi stories are personal stories set in a sci-fi world. My characters usually face problems that are not genre specific. Sometimes they solve those problems using the above-mentioned futuristic technology, and sometimes not. That is where I try to be original and inventive: in my characters’ problem-solving approach. Not just rushing in with laser guns, but employing a unique solution, something smart, unexpected, and with a minimum of violence.  

What about you? Where does your originality appear in your stories?

 

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Writing | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

My favorite book world

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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JULY QUESTION: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

MY ANSWER: Most books I know – I read primarily speculative fiction – outline a world that throbs with a strife of some kind. Political intrigues. Wars. Rebellions. Oppressors. I wouldn’t want to live in any of those stories. Frankly, I want to live in a utopia, but alas, almost no speculative fiction novel follows its heroes into a world with no problems.

The most idyllic would be the small country of Welce from Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS fantasy series. It starts with Troubled Waters and includes 3 other books: Royal Airs, Jeweled Fire, and Unquiet Land. I wouldn’t mind living in Welce. Its ruler is a decent guy. It doesn’t have corporations. It doesn’t involve itself in an armed conflict of any kind. It doesn’t have slavery. It seems relatively peaceful and sort-of democratic – a good place to settle if you’re not ambitious. Which I’m not. So, Welce it is.

Here are the books:

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

WEP June 2022 – Please Read the Letter

Another story about Altenay, the magical Finder, as my answer to the June 2022 WEP challenge, Please Read the Letter. I seem unable to restrict myself to 1000 words. All my stories so far tend to extend to about 1300 words. ☹

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Chaos ruled the house in the middle of the University district. Half-filled boxes, chests, and cloth sacks littered the floor.  

“Hello, Mistress Syrenia,” Altenay greeted the young woman at the door. “Your message asked me to come here.”

“Yes, thank you for coming promptly, Finder,” the woman said. “Call me Melana.” She led the way into a former study or a library. The empty bookcases lining the walls reached up to the ceiling, but most books had already been packed into crates.  

“This was my father’s house,” Melana said. “He died and left me everything. But one book, the jewel of his collection, is missing. I want you to Find it. They say you can Find anything.”

“Mostly,” Altenay agreed.

The unoccupied shelves around her loomed dolefully. Bookshelves were supposed to have books or at least knick-knacks. Having lost their content, the shelves felt incomplete, almost grieving.

“What book,” she asked aloud.

“A bestiary,” said Melana. “The Amazing Beasts of Revocnava Island. It was my favorite. It had incredible pictures. I wanted to have it, the only one of my father’s library, but it is not here. I’m selling the rest.” Melana’s resentment shimmered in the air, augmenting the disconsolate atmosphere of the house.

“You father didn’t tell you what happened to the book? Before he died?”

“We were estranged. We didn’t talk,” Melana said stiffly. “But he knew I loved that book. Maybe he had sold it to spite me. I would buy it back, whatever the price. Just Find it.”

“Could you tell me more about the book,” Altenay prompted.

“I heard you need something, some connection to the book,” Melana said. “Another book from this library. Anything of my father’s.”

“No, anything of your father’s wouldn’t work. It is too generic. There were thousands of items here, all connected. I need something more specific. Something unique to the book.”

Melana’s lips twisted in self-mockery. “When I was a kid, before my father abandoned my mom and me, I tore a page from the book. I loved the illustration. Would it do?”

“Do you still have it? Yes, that would be best.”

“Wait.” Melana disappeared into the bowels of the house. She returned a few minutes later with a large leather portfolio. The bright red-and-teal dragon glared at them from the page, its every scale outlined in gold.

“A really astounding picture,” Altenay said reverently. “That must be a huge book.”

“Yes,” Melana acknowledged. “Do you have to take the picture?” She seemed reluctant to part with it.

Gingerly, Altenay put a finger on the page with its glowing paint. Instantly, her Finder magic sprang to life. It pulled at her, sharp as an arrow. It knew where the rest of the book was.

“I’ll bring your portfolio back when I find the book,” she promised.u

“When will you know?” Melana demanded.

“Give me a day or two,” Altenay said. She could probably find the book within an hour. It was close by, she was sure, for her Finder magic to be so crystal clear, but she always hedged her bets when dealing with clients.

She left Melana’s house with the portfolio strap across her shoulder. With one finger inside the portfolio, on the image, she marched where her magic pointed. The day was sunny, the hour still early, and her magic’s direction unambiguous. She was prepared to walk a while, but it only took a few minutes. Holding her ornate tubeteika, so it wouldn’t slip off her head, she lifted her eyes at the imposing colonnaded edifice. The University Library.

She hurried inside and followed the summons of her magic past the fiction section, past the alchemists’ room, past the memoir chamber, into a spacious hall called History and Geography. The bookcases inside stretched in rows to the far wall. Her magic blinked and dissipated. Argh! Somewhere in this huge room full of books was one book she was seeking. Irresolute, Altenay stood inside the entrance arch. How could she find Melana’s book here?

“Are you a new student?” someone asked behind her back.

Altenay whirled.

An older man with a bald head regarded her with friendly interest. “Are you looking for something specific? I’m the librarian here.”

“Hello,” she said. “I’m a Finder. I was contracted to locate a book.” She told him what she was looking for.

“Hm. A bestiary. We have some books donated to us from private collections. If you tell me the name of the previous owner, I might know where his book is.”

Altenay winced. “I promise confidentiality to all my clients.” But maybe she should disclose the name in this case. “Syrenia,” she said at last. “I don’t know his first name.”

“Professor Syrenia? He died recently.”

“Yes, him.”

“It’s a sad loss,” the librarian said. “He was a noted scholar, traveled a lot in his youth.” He shook his head. “But he didn’t donate anything to us.”

“My magic insists the book is in this room,” Altenay said. “Maybe he hid his personal book here.”               

“Why hiding it?” asked the librarian, his brow crinkled in puzzlement. “He should’ve told me.”

“I don’t know. Something to do with his daughter. She said they were estranged. I can show you a page from this book. Maybe it will stir your memory.” She opened the portfolio.

“Torn from the book,” he muttered with disapproval.

Altenay smiled apologetically. “She was young.”

“Still, should’ve more respect for a book. Let me think.”

He started walking. Altenay followed.

“I know the book. Saw it once when I visited his house,” the librarian murmured to himself. “I was a student then, took a class from Syrenia. That man’s knowledge was encyclopedic.”

He stopped in front of a case containing huge, illustrated volumes. His finger traced along the front of the case without touching the spines, traveling through the air like a magic pointer. The lower shelf. The middle shelves. The top one. The finger stopped.

“This book definitely doesn’t belong to us.” He pulled a ladder to the case, climbed, and took out a large tome with the embossed gold lettering on the cover. The Amazing Beasts of Revocnava Island. “Gotcha!” The librarian opened the book.

Attached to the front page, was a letter. “To my beloved daughter Melana Syrenia. Please, read my letter. It will explain why I had to leave you and your mom, even though I loved you both all my life.”

Hurriedly, Altenay lifted her eyes, embarrassed to catch even a glimpse of the letter addressed to another.

“Well,” the librarian drawled and resolutely closed the book. “It’s certainly not ours, but I can’t just let you walk away with this book. Professor Syrenia put the book here for a reason. I’m responsible for every book in this building. Tell Mistress Melana to come here.”

“Thank you,” Altenay said.   

A few days later, when Melana Syrenia came to pay for Altenay’s services, Altenay couldn’t restrain her curiosity.

“Yes, I read the letter,” Melana said. “He was cursed. He stole a priceless statue from a temple on Revocnava Island when he was young, and the priestess cursed him. The curse extended to his family, and when he realized that, he abandoned us. To remove the curse from us. He did it because he loved us, and I never knew. I was mad at him my whole life. I wouldn’t have read his letter if he just sent it to me. If it wasn’t connected to the book. If the book wasn’t hidden.” She sounded sorrowful. “Now, I suppose I’ll have to return the statue.” She sighed. “That darn letter!”  

Tagline: A letter could change a life … when delivered at the right time.  

Posted in Fantasy, Olga Godim, WEP | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Making book covers

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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This month’s question is long-winded, but it could be condensed into a short query: what do you do if you can’t write? If I can’t write, which happens quite often, alas, I either read or make book covers. That’s what I wanted to talk about today.

My approach to creating book covers might be peculiar because I can’t draw. I have to use existing images from free image sites, like Pixabay, and enhance them until they show what I want.

Let’s take a look at one example. Here is the original image by https://pixabay.com/users/vic_b-6314823/

The image is large enough to manipulate safely. First, I cropped it to make the figure more prominent.

Then I removed the white window casements over the woman’s head. The universally dark bricks might be duller from the architectural viewpoint, but they would display the title and other texts better.

I changed the face to one of the portraits by https://pixabay.com/users/kaazoom-448850/ He is a wonderful portrait artist, and I like using his faces for my covers. I changed the hair – it is a blend of several different images. I changed the sword, made it more elaborate. It is also a composite of two different swords. To jazz up the whole a little more, I added the blooming shrubbery around the heroine. And finally, I introduced the title and author name. Here is the first version of my pre-made cover.

Still I wasn’t happy with it. It looks sort-of bland. I could’ve made it more playful by adding flying fairies instead of shrubbery. Or I could’ve cropped it in a different way and shown a woman and a dragon. Or a wolf shapeshifter. Or I could’ve added some magic sparkles. There are many ways the same original image could be transformed into different book covers, depending on the book’s genre and content. I decided to use a different background altogether.

Here is the cover I would use if I needed one – with the same woman:

I find it deeply satisfying that I can create art without being an artist myself. Artistic software is a wonderful tool, and I use the free graphic program Paint.net for all my artistic needs.

What about you? Some of you make book covers too. How do you approach the process? What tools do you use?     

 

Posted in art, book cover, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Writing | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Magic vocabulary

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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I’m not going to answer this month’s optional question. Instead, I’m going to write about my preferred genre. I’m a speculative fiction writer, so all my stories are either science fiction or fantasy. In most fantasy stories – mine or written by other writers – magic is always close to the surface. Something is always happening because of magic.  

Admittedly, magic isn’t necessary confined to fantasy fiction. It exists in our everyday lives as well, and in our mundane vocabulary, magic is always a good word. Consider these well-known idioms: magic moment, magic touch, magic show, work your magic, and the most popular – magic word.

But in a fantasy land, magic has a different connotation. In fantasy stories, magic is a force only magicians can wield. Have you ever wondered what those idioms might mean to a magician from a fantasy novel? I have and I asked a magician, Eriale, the heroine of my novel Almost Adept (now out of print). Below are her definitions of the idioms that include the word magic.  

Magic word – that is a metaphor. There are no magical words except ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and there is no real magic involved, just politeness.

Magic touch – this is usually reserved for small magic. When I need to heat the water for my bath, I touch the water and infuse it with energy through the touch. The water warms up. When I need to coat a wood splinter with an illusion, to make it look like something else, I touch it, apply my magic through the touch, and voila, it looks like a feather or a knife or a spoon. But such a spoon couldn’t be used for eating, of course, or the knife for cutting. Only the appearance changes.

Magic show – a show created by using magic. For example, fireworks displays in the sky during Midwinter celebrations or visual storytelling on birthdays. My father is excellent with visual storytelling. He uses distinct illusion spells for every character involved in a story. Children love his shows. When I was a child, my favorite illusionary character was a cricket spy, a very tricky little lad. I haven’t mastered this kind of magic yet. I can do fireworks displays, of course, but visual storytelling is a very delicate and precise application of magic. It requires lots of patience and practice.   

Work your magic – means exactly that. When a client needs something done with magic, he would hire a magician and say: “Work your magic.” It could be applied to sending messages, or checking food for poison, or screening patrons in a gaming house, or changing the weather.  

Magic price – is what a magician pays for working magic. Magic is energy generated by a magician’s body. Anything that can be done without magic can be done with magic, and the magician applying it pays the price. For example, if you want to carry a cargo to the other side of the country, you can do it using a horse and a wagon. And lots of time. Or you can employ a mage to transport your cargo. The horse would spend energy pulling the wagon. It would need to eat and sleep to replenish its strength. So would a drover. A mage is no different. He compacts the time and space needed for transportation, and he uses the same amount of energy for the same job, but he pulls this energy out of himself. Of course, mages are always hungry and tired after working magic. If they are not careful and overextend their magic, they could faint or even die. Sometimes, when there is no choice and many lives are at stake, a magician might work too much magic and burn his own magic; cripple himself to save others. It doesn’t happen often, but I read about a few such cases. Those magicians were heroes. They sacrificed themselves for the good of all.

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Below is a snippet of a dialog on the subject Eriale has with another character from the novel, Kealan.

“What if a mage wants to use more magic than his body generates?” Kealan asked.

“He can’t.” Eriale’s expression clouded. “Unless he resorts to blood magic. Then he can, if he extracts the energy from the pain and death of others. It’s easy magic, but…it’s dirty. Blood magic corrupts a mage’s soul.” She shivered. “It makes me want to puke, like poison.” She hugged her knees and stared into the distance.     

“Sorry I asked.” Kealan didn’t like her looking so forlorn. He thought of a distraction. “What if something can’t be done without magic? Like turning a man into an animal? Is it possible with magic?”

“Why?” Eriale snickered. “Do you want to turn someone into a frog?”

“No. I heard a rumor that some crazy mage at the royal court turned a duke into a goat. I thought it was a hoax. They were just pulling my leg, right?”

“Ah.” She kept silent for so long, he wasn’t sure she would answer at all. At last, she stirred. “You can transform one living being into another, but it’s a very complicated spell and a brutal one,” she said quietly. “It takes lots of power and lots of knowledge. You have to learn every detail of the anatomy of your original creature and the target creature. Otherwise, you’ll create a monster. And the overall masses of both creatures should be the same. You can’t turn a man into a tiny frog. Where would the extra mass go? Unless you want a frog the size of a man.”

Kealan grunted. His imagination leaped into overdrive, visualizing a possible result of such a transformation. “A frog the size of a man. Should be charming.”

She giggled. “There’s another solution. I could use a transportation spell. You know, find a frog in a nearby pond, transport the man there and the frog here. It’s a kind of a switcheroo. Done properly, it only takes a moment. For a bystander, it would look like a transformation, but it’s a trick, really.”

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What about other genres? Do you know other genre-specific words that have different meaning in the genre books than on our mundane lives?

 

 

Posted in Almost Adept, Fantasy, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Magic, Olga Godim, Writing | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

WEP Apr 2022 – A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

Here is my entry for the WEP Apr 2022 challenge – A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. It is another story about Altenay, the Finder, the heroine of my 2022 WEP flash fiction. Altenay is a magician: her magic allows her to Find what is lost. The story is a bit longer than 1000 words. Sorry.

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“A hard rain is gonna fall,” the elderly zookeeper mumbled. “Me bones ache.”

Altenay glanced at the heavy gray sky. It had been drizzling for the past three days, on and off. Not a good time to search for anything out in the open, but she didn’t have a choice. She was a Finder. She found things. And this time, it was a Council-paid job.

She eyed the empty cage in front of her with disfavor. No point in asking how the m’riffin had escaped: the cage door gaped open, its lock broken.   

“Dogs wouldn’t pick up his scent in all this rain,” the grumpy zookeeper informed her. “You need to find him quickly, or he would get a cough. Poor little Mory.”

“I don’t hunt by scent like dogs,” Altenay said sharply. She huddled in her cloak, but the cold moisture seeped inside, making her shiver.

“They said you need something of his.” The zookeeper shuffled back to his office. “Here are a couple of wing feathers from his last molt. Would they do? Poor Mory.”

Altenay took the feathers. Brownish with golden highlights, they were longer than her palm.

Poor little Mory indeed, she thought morosely. An m’riffin was almost as tall as she was, with two powerful chicken-like legs, a body and tail of a cat, vestigial wings, and a head of a monkey on a long sinuous neck. It was a magically created monstrosity with long rabbit ears, an amalgam of several species that should never coexist in one body. It couldn’t fly, but it could run like the wind.

Of course, m’riffins were rare and expensive, and someone had stolen this one last night. Why? Who would want such a pet? What if the thief was dangerous? Would he fight her? What if the m’riffin bit her?

“How do I trap it?” Altenay asked. “Does it bite? What does it eat?”

“Meat,” the zookeeper said. “Fish. Ham. He likes smoked octopus. Poor Mory.”

Altenay really didn’t want this large carnivore wandering the streets. Smoked octopus, right!

“These guys will go with you.” The zookeeper nodded at the two guards with a small donkey wagon waiting outside his office.

“Thank you.” Altenay climbed into the wagon.

“Where to?” one of the guards asked.

She fingered the feathers and unfurled her Finder magic. It pointed straight south. Hm. South of the city lay the sprawling river delta. Then the swamps and the mountains. And behind the mountains, the Sultanate.

“Let’s go to the river port,” she told the guards. “Maybe someone wants to smuggle the creature up the river.”

The guard flipped the reins, and they started rolling.

“Do you know why there is such a rush with this job?” Altenay asked.

The younger guard looked at her over his shoulder. “The Council wants to send it to the Sultan as a gift,” he said with a smirk. “For his zoo, I suppose.”

“Oh, right,” she remembered. Everyone at the market had been talking about it. The ship with the delegation to the Sultanate was scheduled to depart in two days.

Altenay rubbed her arms and watched in dismay as the sky opened up. The rain pounded the wagon’s canvas roof and danced in the puddles between the cobblestones. At least she was under a roof. The guards on their bench were drenched already.

At the port, she could do nothing but swear. Repeatedly. Her magic kept pulling south, across the river, into the swamps. She hoisted a bag of ham bits over her shoulder and jumped down from the wagon.

“Guys. My magic still points south. I guess I’ll have to go alone from here. A boat across the river and then on foot. Oh, I hate this job.”

By now, the rain fell in sheets. She tried to wipe the water from her face with her wet sleeve and giggled at the futility of the gesture.

“Sorry, Finder. There are no roads for the wagon down south.” The older guard shrugged apologetically.

“I know. Bye.” She turned away.

“Wait.” The younger guard offered her his pike. “You might need it … as a staff, maybe, if not a weapon. It’s sturdy. You’re all alone.” His wet cheeks pinked.

“Thank you.” Smiling, Altenay accepted his offering.

The older guard snorted and shook his head but didn’t say anything.

Altenay headed to the port. Finding a boat to ferry her across the river wasn’t hard, but after that she was on her own. Nobody lived in the swamps but loonies and criminals. And all sorts of predatory animals. Fortunately, most of them were nocturnal, and it was still early in the day, not even noon yet, but the sky was so dark and leaden, it could be evening. She couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe the swamp denizens couldn’t either? Not a comforting thought.

Resolutely, she started walking. The swamps were not all mire. Trees and shrubbery and tall reeds grew in profusion, and walking paths zigzagged among the waterways. It was tricky to follow her magic here, but overall, she made progress in the right direction. The muddy path squelched and slurped under her boots.

She didn’t realize at once when she arrived. Nothing looked different, but her magic stopped pulling and just hazed disconsolately under the weeping sky. Then a thicket of reeds in front of her resolved into a crude hut. Beside it, the m’riffin was feeding from a big bucket suspended off a tree branch. The beast’s motley brownish coloration – wings, pelt, and all – made it almost invisible in the swamp.

A boy of around seven or eight darted out of the hut and glared at her. Altenay glared back. How had these people transported the creature here?

“You can’t take Mory,” the boy said fiercely. He was clutching a wooden club almost as big as he was.

“Your grandpa is the zookeeper, isn’t he?” Altenay guessed. She should’ve known. Who else would’ve fed an animal smoked octopus? Most people couldn’t afford the delicacy. Only someone who loved the m’riffin would give it such a treat.

“He raised Mory from a chick. And they are going to send him away.”

“Look. If I go back and tell the Council who stole Mory, the guards are gong to arrest your grandpa and put him in prison. What’ll happen to you then?”

The boy’s eyes grew round, and his lips started trembling.

“How did you bring it here?”

“In a boat,” he said in a small shaky voice.

“Then we are going to take Mory back the same way. And we are not going to tell anyone that it was your grandpa who stole it. If nobody knows, nobody will arrest him.”

The boy stared at her for a while and then nodded mutely.

“Get the boat,” Altenay said. “I’ll do all the talking. You keep mum.”    

When they got back to the port, the rain lightened up. Altenay talked to the city guards. She said she found the creature roaming the swamps. The boy who lived there offered to help with his boat, but she had to pay him.

The guards accepted her explanation, and so did the Council. The ship with the delegation to the Sultan, including the m’riffin, departed on schedule. Nobody arrested the old zookeeper. She saw him later, ambling around the zoo, as grumpy as ever.      

Tagline: Rain or shine, the Finder always finds her m’riffin.           

Posted in Fantasy, Olga Godim, WEP, Writing Challenge | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

A Girl from Ukraine

I saw a beautiful image on Pixabay by a talented artist Natalia Lavrinenko from Kiev, Ukraine.

It was a simple sketch of a portrait. I decided to play with it to express my feelings. Here is what I came up with:

Posted in art, Olga Godim | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Do you speak French?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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I will forgo this month’s question as I have never dealt with audio books. I want to talk about a different issue that has me puzzled, more as a reader than as a writer. Some old-time authors I admire, among them Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, and several others, sometimes include French sentences in their books, usually in dialogs, without a translation in the footnotes. Why is there no translation? Are all their readers supposed to know French?

Maybe in the past, everyone with education could speak French. I’m not sure, but I doubt it was true even then. I do know for sure it isn’t true now. I don’t speak French. Neither do many of my friends and neighbors.

When I encounter such foreign-language phrases in books, I generally guess what was being said, but it irritates me. Why did the writers do it at all? Didn’t they want their readers to know exactly what they write? Did they want to baffle their readers? And why, for Pete’s sake, don’t the modern editors supply the translation, when a story is reprinted a hundred years later? I’m certain that every modern editor in every publishing house knows that not everybody speaks French. So where are my translations?   

Do you have anything to say on this issue? Do you have answers to any of my questions? Are you ever tempted to include French in your own books? Or any other language without translation? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Reading | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Deleting scenes is hard

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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MARCH QUESTION: Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

MY ANSWER: Frankly, I usually have the opposite problem. I tend to write long, often longer than the prescribed word count, so my challenge is not what to add but what to delete without compromising the story, while staying inside the allowed word count. Deleting scenes and even chapters during revisions is a regular writers’ task. Sometimes, it is just common sense. Other times, it is painful. You like the scene so much, you invested your heart in it, the participants came out alive, the descriptions are throbbing with emotions, BUT… If it is not relevant for the overall story, if the story could live without it, you should cut it out.

What I do if I like the deleted scenes too much: I collect them. Some of them make wonderful short stories later on.  

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This post wasn’t easy for me to write. As you could see above, I didn’t really have an answer to this month’s question, I didn’t have any other ideas, and I didn’t want to skip the post either. Since I joined IWSG in 2014, I never skipped the post day. I’m not about to start. So I made the decision: whenever I have trouble writing an IWSG post, I will post one of my pre-made book covers. It is about books. And it definitely covers my insecurity as a book cover creator. So far, I only created two book covers for real people and real stories. Maybe if I advertised more… So here is this month’s cover. Of course, it is fantasy.

 

 

Posted in book cover, Fantasy, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

WEP Feb 2022 – All You Need is Love

This year, all the WEP challenges will be about music. All but one incorporate popular songs of the 20th century. Only one challenge is dedicated to classical music. Unfortunately, while I enjoy classical music, I never liked popular music. I’ve never heard any of the songs or singers involved in this year’s challenges. Even when I tried to listen to them now, they don’t evoke any emotions in me. So instead of following the tunes and verses that leave me cold (except Moonlight Sonata), I’ll write my flash stories based on the words of the titles, which inspire me.

As usual, I’m going with a series of interconnected stories about one protagonist. She is Altenay, a Finder, living in a fantasy city in an imaginary, vaguely medieval land: horses, swords, magic, the usual. Here is my entry into the WEP Feb 2022 challenge All You Need Is Love.   

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“I wanted a baby,” Lady Malsy whispered. “I wanted someone to love. All I wanted was love.”

Altenay nodded. “Of course, Milady.” She had made it a policy never to contradict her clients, lest they became non-clients. But what had the woman’s maternal yearning had to do with Altenay, the Finder?  

“My husband wasn’t a kind man,” the lady continued.  

Altenay had heard that about the late General Malsy. Nobody mourned him. Obviously not his new widow.

“It wasn’t his baby. He’d never have forgiven me if he knew. He would’ve killed me and the baby. Luckily, he was away on campaign. He never learned.”

“Of course,” Altenay repeated. “What do you want me to Find for you, Milady?”

“I want you to find my baby.”

Altenay stared. “Uhm,” she said faintly.

“I had to give it up, so my husband wouldn’t find out. The midwife took it away. It was seven years ago. But as soon as the general died, I came to you. I want to find my baby. I want to adopt it officially.”

“Seven years,” Altenay squeaked. She glanced up from her visitor to the man who had come with her. He stayed at the door. His face was impassive, but his eyes blazed with anger. Lady Malsy had introduced him as her cousin, and he obviously didn’t want any baby found. Probably a large inheritance was at stake. Altenay returned her attention to the lady, who was still talking.

“I never saw it. Don’t even know if it was a girl or a boy. But I love it already.” Tears glistened in the woman’s eyes. “Find it for me, Finder. They said you never fail.”

Altenay swallowed. “Do you have anything that belonged to your baby?” Even as she asked the question, she knew the answer. Of course, not. The lady had never even seen the baby.

“No,” Lady Malsy said.

Altenay spared another glance at the cousin. His fury seemed to subside, replaced by quick mental calculations.

“What about the midwife?” Altenay asked. “Do you have anything that belonged to her? Do you know her name?”

The man at the door perked up. Would he do something nasty to the midwife? Or just pay her off to stay quiet?

“I don’t remember her name,” Lady Malsy said. “But I have this. It was hers. I kept it.” She put a cheap silver bracelet on Altenay’s desk. “She removed it before the birth and forgot it when she took the baby away. Would it help?”

Altenay picked up the bracelet and let her Finder magic flow. The pull was strong and unmistakable, arrowing north. Probably not far out of the city. Surreptitiously, she checked the cousin at the door again. He looked like a hunting dog on a scent. Ready to pounce. She needed to do her search out of his watchful eyes.

“I don’t know, Milady,” Altenay said. “My magic is small and erratic.” That was a shamefaced lie. Her magic wasn’t erratic. It was small, yes, but simple and straightforward. It tugged, and Altenay followed. So far, she had always found her quarry at the end of her magical line, but she always cautioned her clients, so they wouldn’t expect too much. Besides, the cousin might be a problem.

“I’ll try,” she said. “But I’ll have to finish a couple other jobs first. I can start on your search in a few days.” That was another prevarication. She didn’t have any other jobs at the moment, but hopefully the notion would keep the greedy cousin off her back for a time. She really wanted to find the kid.

Altenay watched through her window, as the lady’s carriage vanished around the corner. The cousin would need some time to organize anything. Meanwhile, she would move. As soon as the rattle of the carriage wheels on the cobblestones died away, she clamped a yellow tubeteika, fringed with tiny coins, on her head and slipped out of the house. She hurried to the northern gates of the city. To her relief, nobody followed her.

At the gates, she checked the midwife’s bracelet again. Her magic still pointed north. She hired a donkey cart at the livery just beyond the gate and followed the call of magic. It zoomed straight to the door of a modest cottage in a small town a couple hours from the city. Easy.

Convincing the midwife to disclose the fate of the child was trickier.   

“General Malsy died?” the midwife asked in surprise. “When? She was afraid of him.”

“The funeral was yesterday,” Altenay sad. “That’s why Lady Malsy came to me. Because her husband died.”

The midwife pursed her lips but eventually relented. “His name is Ratmir,” she said. “A good, healthy lad. I gave him to the local draper’s family. They couldn’t have children.”

She even took Altenay to the draper. “This is a Finder,” she said. “Lady Malsy hired her.”

“No!” the draper’s wife exclaimed. “No. Ratmir is my son. We won’t give him up!”

Her husband, a thin stopped man, nodded his agreement.

Altenay looked through the window at the dusty yard outside. A boy with the dark curly hair played with a dog there.

“He might have more chances in life with a rich mother,” she said. “And she might pay you too. She doesn’t have to cut you off either. The boy loves you.”   

The draper and his wife exchanged speaking glances. Everyone in the room knew that none of them could really make any decisions. It was Lady Malsy’s money. And the boy was her son.

“I’ll let the lady know where you live,” Altenay said at last.

It was already dark when she returned home. The next morning, she trudged up the hill to see Lady Malsy. To her relief, the cousin wasn’t in the room.

“You need something else?” the lady asked anxiously. The house was swathed in the mourning colors, but its mistress didn’t seem grieving.   

“No, Milady.” Altenay told her about her yesterday’s trip.

“Ratmir,” the lady breathed. Her eyes shined. “You said a few days. Oh, thank you!” She thrust a heavy purse into Altenay’s hands. “Thank you, Finder. Thank you.”

“Milady,” Altenay said. “It is not my business, but you’re rich. You probably have other heirs for your money. They might resent Ratmir’s sudden appearance. Maybe … you should do something … to keep him safe.”

Lady Malsy’s expression turned frosty. Then it switched to thoughtful. “Yes,” she said after a lengthy pause. “Yes, perhaps I should.”

Altenay curtsied and fled. Later on, she heard in the market that Lady Malsy dotted on her long-lost son. She also heard that the lady’s cousin suffered a fatal accident. People always gossiped about the rich.   

Tagline: The mother’s love can’t be denied.

Posted in Fantasy, Olga Godim, WEP | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments